Not that I’m against endings which happen to be happy. All the books I’ve written to date have happy endings, hopeful endings if not entirely settled endings, and my two drunk writer cohorts both write in the romance genre, books which all have happily-ever-after endings. So I don’t want to talk about whether to make endings happy… I’m more interested in what makes endings great.
I’m just finishing revisions on a manuscript, trying to get it off to my agent so she’s got something else to sell. Problem is, I’m not feeling really confident about my ending and it’s got me thinking about endings in general.
I thought I’d consult my Vogler to see what he has to say on returning with the elixir and all that jazz, but for some reason I couldn’t find it today, and I think I only wanted to read it to get permission, to get some justification to end my book where I want to end it, where I always want to end my books, just as soon as everything’s resolved. (And adding to my lack of great-ending-confidence, an editor who was very interested in my last manuscript, but ultimately couldn't offer, told me she thought that book ended abruptly. It did. But I liked it that way.)
Based on all this, I know many (most?) readers like more ending than I do. They like something to come after the climax/resolution. Something that increases their confidence that everything turned out all right. They want to know the protagonist was still okay, even after coming down from the adrenaline high of surviving the climax. Not only do they want the protagonist to come down, the readers want time to calm down and absorb. This all makes sense to me. I know I need to push my stories just a bit past where I want to stop writing. I think my problem is that I know the characters will be okay... so after everything's resolved, it's just not interesting to me, anymore...
So, I’m ending challenged. Frequent DWT commenter Kimber, asked some time ago whether we’d do blog on epilogues. So, while this topic might please Kimber somewhat, it may also disappoint her. Why? Because I’m not sure I have an opinion on epilogues, per se. I think, like most things, it depends on the story. (And we've already established I'm confused about endings in general.)
I do think epilogues can tend toward the cliché. For example, a wedding scene at the end of a romance, or a scene with the couple and their kids a few years later. Now, full disclosure, I’ve written scenes like that… but I guess those epilogues in a romance have become cliché because they've been written so many times, and they've been written so many times because they work, because they’re satisfying to readers.
But I fear I've drifted off topic. I wanted to talk about what's driving me nuts right now... Here I go. It's my ending. My ending is boring and I think it probably tells rather than shows. Also, in the current draft, it includes an "insight" I ended up putting earlier in the book, and I do think it works better where it’s ended up, so to avoid redundancy, my ending will not only be boring and badly written it will also be insightless (if that were a word).
This weekend, I came up with a new final scene idea (not written yet) to let my protagonist return with her elixir. But, what is this planned scene I'm thinking of tacking on? Get ready for it, it’s a wedding scene. It does, however, have a twist… Not the protagonist's wedding, someone elses -- but still I feel it might be too corny and cliché.
How about you? Once the conflict’s resolved and the protagonist has demonstrated they’ve changed… Do you want more? Do you want the story wrapped up in a pretty bow? What makes a great ending for you? Help me. Please.